Friday, December 2, 2011

R.I.P. Due Process

Well, it's official.  The terrorists have won.

Senate Votes Against Due-Process Rights

Is it lawful for the president to order any American held indefinitely as a terrorist, without formal charges, evidence presented in open court, a trial by jury, or a standard of "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt"? The U.S. Senate had a chance Wednesday to assert that no, a president does not possess that power -- that the United States Constitution guarantees due process. 


The U.S. Senate refused to affirm that American citizens arrested in the United States shouldn't be subject to indefinite military detention on the president's order. 

We now live in a country where you can be arrested, shipped off to some off-shore prison, and left there to rot for the rest of your life without ever being given a reason why or a chance to defend yourself.  Why?  Because Al Qaeda, that's why.  Because they successfully attacked us and we did the rest for them, spinning ourselves into such a frenzy of fear and jingoism and xenophobia and hatred that we're silling to toss our own rights out the window for the illusion of safety.   

I could toss around that Ben Franklin quote about liberty and security, but we've all head it a thousand times and it didn't make a damn bit of difference.  At the end of the day we nodded our heads and then voted in the guys who would wipe their asses with the Constitution because they told us they would make us safe. 

We now live in a country where airport security gets to go through your belongings and see you naked.  Where due process is a thing of the past.  Where having a foreign accent and being on an airplane at the same time makes you a terror suspect.

What happened to us?  What happened to "land of the free, home of the brave?"  To "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?"  We got attacked, yes.  It was terrible and I wouldn't dare deny that.  But the country I grew up being taught about in school wasn't one that would cower in the face of such a thing.  It wasn't a country that would cut off it's nose to spite it's face the way we have in the last ten years.  We've let fear turn us into a shadow of what America was built to be, and now we are the huddled masses hiding behind a ruling class that hates us in the hopes that their derision will afford us some level of security, whatever the cost.

People complain that the Occupy movement has no clear focus – I wonder if maybe their focus isn't broad enough.  Yes, we're being screwed by the banks and the wealthy.  But we're also watching our rights get shaved away a little bit at a time and our quality of life become a fairy tale.  We're still embroiled in overseas wars with vague purpose and exit strategies.  There's still no tower at WTC1, but damned if we kept them Muslims from building a community center.  The man who planned the attack that started our "security" downward spiral is dead, and all it yielded us is a nightmarish period of internet bloodlust because we're so afraid we can't see the forest fire through the trees.

And we aren't any safer. 

I have a tendency to get apocalyptic and paranoid about these things.  Maybe I watched too much X Files in the 90s, I don't know.  But I feel like Congress casually waving away due process is worth a little paranoia.  This one is big.  It's hard not to look at those in charge and wonder if they really don't just hate us or see us as some lesser breed.

Bad Religion recorded this track over a decade ago. Maybe we should have asked them what to do since they apparently saw it coming.



  1. Let me just say this, if we want to see improvements in this country, we need to kick the current crop of assholes in the federal government out of office and vote in Independents, Libertarians, and Third Party candidates who actually care about our civil liberties.

  2. I feel like Congress needs term limits. Too many of these guys are lifetime politicians who have lost touch with reality. There needs to be a more regular turnover.

  3. Damn, that is depressing. In fact, it's even more depressing than it looks on first glance.

    For one thing, the vote was mostly along party lines. How in the hell is due process and the right to a fair trial a party political issue? Surely we all stand behind these rights, no matter if we're right-wing or left-wing? But for a lot of Republicans, it seems that if some goddamn Demmycrat votes that the world is round, they're going to damn well vote that it's flat. And, of course, vice versa. Four Republicans broke ranks with their party - but twice as many Democrats voted against the motion, so they can't exactly take the moral high ground.

    As a goddamn foreigner, I probably don't have much right to comment on American politics, but it does seem bizarre that the Senate can debate this matter at some length, and finally decide to do absolutely nothing. The whole debate has the look of a cheap political point-scoring exercise - nothing was achieved, nothing was changed, but some speeches were made, and the President was reminded, however briefly, that the Senate actually exists. Is that all that Congress is these days, this empty talking shop? If so, maybe it's time to think about getting rid of it and replacing it with a chamber that can actually, you know, do stuff.

    It does seem as though some people in America can justify anything, no matter how blatantly wrong, by just shouting the word 'terrorism'. But there are plenty of Americans fighting for the liberties you used to take for granted, and history shows that, in the end, the good guys usually win. It just takes a long time, is all.

    I won't quote Ben Franklin, but instead the Prime Minister of Norway, after the recent attack on his country. He said the answer to terrorism was 'more democracy, more openness, but not naivety'. As a foreigner who wants to look up to America in the way I once did, I just wish they had more politicians with that kind of courage.

    Keep fighting, Tara. Eventually sanity will win out. I hope.

  4. The really weird part about the "party lines" things is that the Republicans are the ones usually shouting to the heavens about LESS government power and regulation. But in practice they only mean that where money is concerned because they'd really like to legislate who can marry who and what you should do with your uterus and where all the non-white/rich people can go to wither.

    But yes, our political system is so gridlocked that it is close to useless at this point. Nothing gets done. Every issue becomes a circus of media coverage and bluster until it reaches its inevitable impasse, and moss keeps growing on the sedentary stone.

    The Norwegian PM definitely has the right idea, and I wish he could come and teach our politicians a thing or two.

  5. Also, both of my state senators (one Democrat and one sell-out Independent who plays for whatever team is winning at the time) voted "nay" on maintaining due process. That infuriates me.

  6. As I try to comment for the FOURTH time...

    All of them need term limits. Even Supreme Court Justices. This should never have even come up for a vote, regardless of whether or not Obama has said he will veto it. I guess David Bowie and the Norwegians do have the right idea...

    As for the terrorists winning: I think they won a few years back when we started calling a certain food "Freedom Fries" and when the "Freedom Blanket" (a forerunner of the Snuggie) was released.

  7. Ah, dear old Smokin' Joe Lieberman, a man who only exists so that Rupert Murdoch looks less creepy and venal by comparison.

  8. Hey now. I own a Snuggie. My mom bought it for me. And I scoffed until I realized that I could be warm while simultaneously not ruining a fresh manicure. That made me a believer!

  9. Definitely with you on term limits, Tara, but again I think that a key is breaking free of the two-party stranglehold. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have shown that they don't mind trampling over our rights for the sake of staying in power (and yes, that includes Obama.)

  10. Oh I have no problem with the Snuggie, Tara....just the idea of calling something a Freedom Blanket.

  11. It does bother me that the things that (and I hate to Godwin myself so quickly) the things we promoted about our country as being unique and separate from he great monsters of history, the Nazi's and the Commies, are becoming less protected and weakened in the name of Freedom? I am afraid that the character of Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men may have been a glimpse into the mentality of today. Scarey.